Ads From The 1800s

 
Now, who doesn't need a good collar!  What's interesting about Wilbur's Shirt & Collar Company is not so much the company itself, but the entire sub-culture of collar companies in the 1800s, most of which were centered in the city of Troy, New York.
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According to the book, "Troy: A Collar City History" by Don Rittner, the "ring around the collar" of grime plagued people centuries ago, and one woman who decided to do something about it, ended up creating a whole new industry!  Hannah Lord married a shoemaker (others say he was a blacksmith), and they settled in Troy, New York.  She got tired of constantly washing his shirts just because the collar was dirty,  So as the story goes, she snipped off the collar, washed it separately, and then sewed it back on the shirt.  (Sounds like a lot of extra work to me!)  Apparently this experiment led to the first detachable collar, and word spread around town like wildfire. 

The Reverend Ebenezer Brown, who owned a store in town, was constantly getting requests for detachable collars, so he put his wife and daughter to work (typical!) cutting, stitching, and laundering the first detachable collars.  They were made from two-ply material and had to be taped and tied around the neck.  These early versions were known as "string collars" and cost 25 cents a piece or $2 per dozen.  Although he sold them door-to-door at first, he eventually had to set up a shop, hire more women, and outsource the work of making enough collars to meet demands.  Payment for the women's labor was in the form of "trade" at his store, and many people think this may have been the first "sweat shop" in the United States! 

Competitive collar companies soon began to spring up all over the area.  The Montague & Granger collar factory began in 1834.  They not only improved on the "string collar," but they also created the "Bishop collar," an upright modification of the turn-down collar.  They also manufactured dickeys (detachable shirt bosoms) and separate cuffs.  However, I don't know if I would buy a collar from a guy who looks like this:
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Detachable collars often left gaps between the shirt and the collar, so snaps were created to keep the collars in place, which inevitably, led to many new collar designs.  The surplus of detachable collars on the market created an increased need for laundering them, so Independence Starks had the foresight to not only create a collar company, but also to create the first Troy Laundry where he washed any and all collars that came his way.  Many years later, the laundry industry launched the creation of the first female union in the country!

As I research and write these entries, it always amazes me how the economic domino effect (or perhaps ripple effect) always takes place after a new invention hits the market.  It sparks more industries to arise and further advancements to take place, and can all start with something as simple as a detachable collar.  Our detachable collars of today may look more like iPads or smart phones, but they are driving industry and inventors to create more products and innovations that will further fuel our hurting economy.

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